As some Kansas community colleges are bracing for more than 10 percent enrollment gains in the fall, the White House delivered some welcome news.
President Barack Obama announced a plan last week to help community colleges provide education for students who are looking to save costs from four-year institutions and an influx of workers who are seeking a new skill after being laid off.
One hour of college credit for an incoming Kansas freshman next fall will cost $84 at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park — $69 for county residents — as opposed to $245.30 at KU.
At Butler Community College in El Dorado, President Jackie Vietti said both of those trends contributed to an expected double-digit enrollment growth in the fall. So the $12 billion in federal dollars for grants, program improvement and facilities for community colleges is a welcome sign.
“We always appreciate it when any entity recognizes our worth,” Vietti said. “But to have the president of the United States recognize it has made it a red-letter week for us.”
At JCCC, too, officials are bracing for a potential increase in students of up to 10 percent or more, said Dennis Day, the school’s vice president for student services.
The school will continue to enroll students up until classes start — about 19,600 students attended at the end of last semester, Day said.
JCCC also offers some courses in Lawrence at the Lawrence Centennial School.
“Community colleges tend to be an oasis during bad economic times because it’s the more economical choice in higher education,” he said.
Kim Reynolds, director of admissions for Cloud County Community College in Concordia, said that their school is marketing new programs like one focusing on wind energy to attract students seeking a new career path. That program has nearly 100 people on a waiting list, she said.
The college anticipates an increase in enrollment partially due to the new program, but also because of the slumping economy. She said she’s visited with more than a dozen students recently who had recently been laid off or had a parent lose a job, and chose to attend a community college.
Marilyn Rhinehart, JCCC’s executive vice president for instruction and chief academic officer, said her school and others will do what they can to help meet Obama’s goal of placing more skilled workers into the economy.
“Probably as important as anything else is the symbolic nature of what he said, which placed such focus on the role community colleges play and their importance,” she said. “And it couldn’t come at a better time.”